Politics from the Palouse to Puget Sound

Saturday, March 08, 2008

The Whitman County Republican Convention: My Take

UPDATED 3/10 to include podcast link - tf

Yesterday, Ron Paul spokesman Jesse Benton stated that Paul knew his presidential race was over, but believed, "We still think we can influence the debate and build an organization moving forward that brings the GOP back to its roots."

Paul said "We must remember, elections are short-term efforts. Revolutions are long-term projects."

Today, that "revolution" came to the Whitman County Republican convention in Colfax.

The Public Service Building auditorium was packed with 78 delegates seated. That's almost as many as were elected in the caucuses last month. Certainly all of the 20 Paul delegates were there, as well as all the alternates.

Things got off to a lively start when some objected to one of the Paul supporters podcasting the convention. Click here for podcast. A vote was taken and the natural freedom-loving spirit of Whitman County residents kicked in. The camera stayed on.

Next came the election of state convention delegates. Geoffrey Sechter, a WSU student and Paul supporter, started a rebellion movement of sorts last week, attempting to get a bloc of state convention delegates elected who did not back John McCain. I supported that effort, in principle. As you know, I have not bought my tickets for the "Straight Talk Express" yet. I believe tremendous pressure needs to be put on McCain to bring him more in line with the conservative base of the party. But I ultimately feel this is futile. My focus this year is going to be on our state and local races, and not the presidential race. Sechter put together a list of 11 candidates, all of them Ron Paul supporters. A flyer at the convention stated they were for:
- putting America first
- supporting Washington state Republicans
- NO amnesty for illegal immigrants
- lowering taxes AND spending
- protecting 2nd amendment rights
- supporting a conservative, constitutionalist Supreme Court
- protecting the value of the dollar
All very admirable values; all ideas that will take the Republican Party back to its traditional Reagan base. Sechter obviously followed my advice about Paul supporters getting involved in state and local races as well.

Only one of their candidates, however, was elected as a delegate. Four others made it as alternates, including our own Ray Lindquist.

The problem for the Ron Paul supporters is that their more fringe beliefs always come back to bite them in the butt. There were numerous amendments to the platform presented today for legalization of medical marijuana, abolishing all foreign aid, declaring the line item veto unconstitutional, thinly veiled attempts to condemn George Bush for pursuing a "war of aggression" and making the President "prove" the need for an Executive Order, and lastly, the whole enchilada of having the U.S. not pursue "military adventures, interventionism, preemptive war, and nation building." All of these amendments failed miserably. The Iraq War is still supported by a majority of GOP members, and I'm sure that proportion is even higher in ultra-red Whitman County. Everyone would comment on how nice it was to see the young faces in the crowd and the enthusiasm (it was), but those nuttier positions really turned people off.

When Paul supporters talk about taking the party back to its roots, they often compare Paul to Ronald Reagan. But that overlooks one very salient fact (forgivable, perhaps, considering many of them were not yet born or were infants when the Gipper was president): Reagan pursued an extremely aggressive, activist, interventionist foreign policy, greatly increasing military expenditures on distinctly non-defensive weapons like the MX missile, cruise missiles, B-1 bombers, modernized WWII battleships, aircraft carriers and quadrupuling the size of the Special Forces. From supporting the Contras, invading Grenada, landing the Marines in Beirut, attacking Syrian targets in Lebanon, bombing Libya, snatching the Achille Lauro hijackers, and escorting oil tankers in the Persian Gulf, it would be hard to find a modern president who believed more in "military adventures." There are other significant differences as well. Reagan strongly supported the line-item veto and was responsible for launching the War on Drugs.

For these reasons, I had to part company with Mr. Sechter and his "revolution." I did not vote for any Ron Paul supporter.

Here are the delegates elected today:
Joel Benjamin
Don Cox
Francis Benjamin
Vangee Harrison
Joe Schmick
Ann Heath
Nancy Gregory
Aaron Crandall*
Cheryl Brock
Jared Webley


Ray Lindquist*
Alex Marcelo
Steve Passmore
Roger Carter
John Goyke
Geoffrey Sechter*
David Stueckle
Jonathan Fletcher
Willard Davis*
Jim Kuzsnir*

*One of Sechter's rebels.
I did not wish to be considered a candidate for delegate because I am going back to Virginia that weekend to move my daughter out to Pullman to attend WSU (Yes, I'm excited! Dad-daughter cross-country roadtrip.) Plus, even if I was in town, I couldn't go and vote in good conscience for McCain.

If the Ron Paul supporters truly wish to take us back to our Reagan roots, they are going to have to engage in coalition building, just the way Reagan did. They are going to have to ditch the out-of-the-mainsteam fringe positions and the pseudo-Republicans and focus on the more popular and paltable messages of limited government and fiscal responsibility.

In other business, party planks were amended to reflect true conservative positions on parental notificaton of abortion, stem cell research, allowing concealed carry at public universities (Geoffrey's,) eliminating the death tax (mine,) and getting rid of the "prevailing wage" on state contracts (Ray's.)

We also heard speechs from Commissioner of Public Lands Doug Sutherland and Attorney General Rob McKenna who are both seeking reelection this fall, and representatives for Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Dino Rossi. Of course, the words "Dino Rossi" were constantly on everyone's lips.

Whitman County Commissioner Michael Largent served as the convention chair and he did a great job. Michael's approachibility, quick wit and folksy sense of humor make him an outstanding politician. I see great things ahead for him,

I mostly enjoy these events for the chance to see my friends like Michael Echanove, Greg Partch, Jerry Finch, Ann Heath, et. al.

A special congratulations goes to my four-year old daughter Megan, who patiently endured the eight-hour marathon of "talking about America," as she put it. Dr. Forbes is in Shanghai, China for a Spring Break faculty/student trip to help Chinese orphans with speech and hearing problems.

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